Giants’ New Top Target: ‘More Explosive’ Than Travis Kelce

Darren Waller

Getty New Giants tight end Darren Waller believes his game rivals Kansas City's Travis Kelce.

Darren Waller is bringing a little swagger with him to the New York Giants.

Before his blockbuster March 14 trade to New York, Waller joined FOX Sports’ “Skip and Shannon: Undisputed” at the 2023 Super Bowl. And the former Pro Bowl tight end did not hold back when he was asked to compare his game to Kansas City Chiefs great Travis Kelce.

“I feel like with my gifts, I’m one of the best offensive players in the league, that’s just how I feel,” Waller said during the February 10 interview. “I don’t feel there’s a big gap [with Kelce]. I may have more speed and explosiveness than him.”

Waller was quick to credit Kelce for his “consistency, creativity, [and route-running]” — all areas in which the nine-year veteran said his ex-AFC West rival holds an edge over him. But even after two injury-riddled seasons, he still believes his name belongs among the game’s best at his position. 

If he’s right, the price New York paid for his services — a 2023 compensatory third-round pick — will look like a bargain to general manager Joe Schoen.

Here’s how Waller compares against Kelce and the league’s other top tight ends:

Waller & Kelce: 2 Dynamic Offensive Weapons

Waller and Kelce are far more similar than they are different. 

Just don’t call them tight ends in the purest sense. They’re much, much more versatile than the hand-in-the-dirt tight ends that came eras before. 

Waller is third among active tight ends in catches (280) and receiving yards (3,394) since 2019, per Pro Football Reference. But according to Next Gen Stats, he racked up 1,476 of those yards as a big slot or straight wide receiver in his two breakout seasons, 2019 and 2020. 

The only other “tight end” to eclipse those stats from the slot or out wide during that span? You guessed it: Travis Kelce.

Waller’s usage remained the same despite changing regimes, too. Josh McDaniels took over as Raiders head coach and play caller in 2022; Waller aligned as a receiver in his offense on over 80% of his snaps, per Pro Football Focus. 

Waller is a mismatch machine. His highlight reel could lengthen in New York, too. 

Waller’s new head coach, Brian Daboll, tutored Rob Gronkowski from 2013 to 2016. And his new offensive coordinator, Mike Kafka, saw Kelce’s value in Kansas City from 2017 to 2021. Both know how to use players like Waller to their fullest potential.

Kelce’s statistical exploits might never be rivaled. When it comes to the impact a tight end can have on an offense, though, a healthy Waller has few peers, if any.

Waller Commands Respect Across the NFL

Waller isn’t the only NFLer with a high opinion of his game, either. 

His football-playing peers voted him the 58th-best player in NFL Network’s Top 100 Players of 2022, bested only by Kelce (10), George Kittle (22) and Mark Andrews (32) at tight end.

He came in even higher — No. 35 — in NFL Network’s rankings the previous year, earning praise from peers like Kelce himself.

“You wanna talk about an athlete?” Kelce said during Waller’s testimonial. “Every time I watch the guy run, it’s like watching a clydesdale fly around on the field. He’s so light on his feet and such a big dude.”

Even Kelce’s coach thinks the Giants acquired “a beast,” according to’s Bob Brookover. And Waller’s departure from the division sounds like a relief to Kansas City’s Andy Reid. 

“He’s tough,” Reid told Brookover. “He’s big. He’s fast. He’s strong. Good hands. Smart. He’s one of the better tight ends.”

Read More
Comment Here
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x